We were amazed to hear in mid-November on the local TV news that the Occupy movement was winding down, according to a new CBS poll. We compiled these Net Briefs as evidence that perhaps CBS is polling the wrong people. These entries represent a small sampling of what’s been going on since Occupy Wall Street began in September 2011. We hope they inspire readers to offer support, donate materials, and get involved. Visit zcomm.org and other websites for full reports and discussions.
DISPATCHES FROM OCCUPY U.S. (in alphabetic order)
BELLINGHAM, WA – Grassroots people and political activists occupy parks in Bellingham to support Occupy Wall Street. Occupiers live in tent camps to protest economic inequality and its impact on working people, students, the poor and the young, calling it a protest by the 99% of the people who are exploited by a system that only benefits the top 1%.
BERKELEY, CA – In iconic Sproul Plaza, thousands of UC Berkeley students and Occupy Oakland activists clashed with university police late into the night on November 9. The police succeeded in clearing away tents, but, in spite of the brutality, protesters refused to leave, insisting that they’d camp there with or without equipment. Uultimately, they voted to approve a University of California-wide general strike.
CHICAGO, IL – Occupiers were arrested while attempting, for the second time, to build a permanent home, exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. Those arrested included registered nurses and other members of National Nurses United (NNU), who erected a medical tent at the action. Twenty-six days since Occupy Chicago started, the movement maintains a 24-hour picket, 7 days a week near the financial district. Activists plan to set up an encampment again and this time they have new union allies.
DENVER, CO – Protesters clashed with police in some of the most intense fighting since the protest group began gathering in a downtown park. Nevertheless, activists set up camp in Lincoln Park. In response to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s insistence that they choose a leader, Occupy Denver elected Shelby, a three-year-old border collie. Shelby, said a statement on Occupy Denver’s website, “exhibits heart, warmth, and an appreciation for the group over personal ambition that Occupy Denver members feel is sorely lacking in the leaders some of them have voted for.”
Kenny White, a former photography major at the Colorado Art Institute, spent one year in college before more than $20,000 in debt crippled his academic future. He is the current security guard for the camp. His biggest worry is that, “People don’t think we’re going to get anything done and that we’re just wasting our time here. We’re in growing pains right now. This is just baby steps. A revolution isn’t won in two months.”
OAKLAND, CA – I spent a while at 14th and B’way for some of the rally activity. It was terrific. Great mood. It looked like the crowd was growing toward a pretty big number as we got closer to noon. Two speaker platforms were open to pretty much anyone who asked to speak. I walked around the encampment—very nice; straw on the pavement; over 100 tents. There were many more African Americans, Latino’s, and a Native American group in full regalia urging us to care for Mother Earth, and a Black Panther tent. People were cheering two guys who were climbing two really tall streetlight poles in order to tie ropes that would lift a huge sign, saying “Death to Capitalism”
In one of the city’s largest ever demonstrations, massive crowds, estimated by some at 10,000-30,000, convened on the Occupy Oakland (OO) encampment for an all-day schedule of events, November 2, and carried out a “successful” general strike throughout the city.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – As Miran Istina puts it, she has been living on borrowed time since she was 14. Diagnosed with cancer, she was given just months to live after her health insurer refused to provide her with life-saving surgery. Istina has spent three weeks living in a tent at the Occupy San Francisco protest and says she will stay there indefinitely, despite her illness. She was inspired to take part by the refusal of her insurance company to pay for treatment for her chronic myelogenous leukaemia. “I decided I was going to spend the rest of my life doing whatever my heart wants.”
The Occupy San Francisco movement has seen up to 300 protesters take over Justin Herman Plaza at the Embarcadero in the downtown district since October 5. The occupiers are given food by local restaurants and have received donations from supporters. When police officers staged a walk-through, some of the occupiers shared jokes with them. One said: “Please leave the automatic weapons outside the camp. This is a peaceful protest.” Another said: “We’re not doing any harm. We’re just a bunch of peace-loving hippies.”
SEATTLE, WA – Seattle is the first Occupy whose banners refer to it as a “planton,” giving credit to the social movements of Mexico, Central America, the Philippines, and other countries for the tactic of living in tents in public spaces as a protest. The U.S. has its own history of occupations, especially factory sit-ins, but for anyone who’s walked through Mexico City’s Zocalo, the sight of tents full of protestors is very familiar. Occupiers share the work of making sandwiches for camp residents. Musicians, painters, muralists, and other artists work in the art tent.
VETERANS/MILITARY – Since Occupy Wall Street protests have broken out in cities across the U.S. and abroad, support has come from what might seem an unlikely corner: war veterans. The world watched as bleeding, dazed 24-year-old Scott Olsen, a Marine, was carried away by fellow protesters after he was struck in the head by an object apparently fired by an Oakland police officer. According to veteran-turned-organizer, Paige Jenkins: “Vets in this movement don’t want to fight anymore. We want to make peace and live peaceably. We shouldn’t have to fight for our benefits and if vets are fighting for their benefits then it can’t be any better for non-vets.” Jenkins, who served from 1987 until 2002, first in the U.S. Navy and then in the California National Guard, said that some veterans were organizing to be “peacekeepers” and maintain perimeter security at occupations. “As vets, I think it is our job to protect our community through teaching nonviolence and defensive measures, like how to protect yourself from unprovoked police attacks.”
In a recent Internet posting, Occupy Marines stated: “We are a collection of prior service Marines intent on protecting American citizens and their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights. We at OMC will not stand idly by as these cowards continue to abuse the Constitution, hurting American citizens.”
OUTSIDE THE U.S.
EUROPE – An Occupy London Stock Exchange protest drew about 4,000 people, according to organizers. In the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral, banners had slogans that read “No Bulls, No Bears, Just Pigs” and “Bankers Are the Real Looters.” In Berlin, 6,000 took to the streets and 1,500 gathered in Cologne. In Frankfurt, 5,000 marched by the European Central Bank headquarters with toy pistols firing soap bubbles and planned to camp out. Thousands marched in Madrid with placards criticizing bank bailouts. In Zurich, about 200 coalesced on Paradeplatz, playing Monopoly and sipping free coffee from a stand.
TAIWAN – Several hundred demonstrators sat mostly quietly outside the Taipei World Financial Center, known as Taipei 101. An English major at Taipei’s Fu Jen Catholic University, joined others singing the “L’Internationale” in front of a Hermes watch shop. “I’m angry about the unjust capitalist society,” he said. “I’m anti-capitalism.”
AUSTRALIA – Occupy Sydney began on October 15 with hundreds of people reclaiming Martin Place and created a non-hierarchical forum for open debate, where people began to have discussions and make decisions about things which affect our lives and communities.
CANADA – In Halifax, Nova Scotia a call to action had gone out and Occupiers took over the city’s main Grand Parade Square. A broad coalition was formed among local groups that have been struggling to have their voices heard on a host of important issues. As in most other major cities, the group has been quick to adopt the general assembly format using consensus based decision making, along with a set of facilitation hand signals and the “people’s mic.” Occupy Nova Scotia has also organized itself, as in NY, into a series of working groups—food, outreach, media, supplies, comfort, legal, direct action, arts and culture, health and well-being, and facilitation. There is a policy of progressive facilitation where women and racial minorities are given priority to speak. As the movement grows, it could expand into becoming an experiment in participatory economics.
Words of Encouragement
CAIRO, EGYPT – “To all those across the world currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice. An entire generation across the globe has grown up realizing, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organizations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the “free market” pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the south found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
“So we stand with you not just in your attempts to bring down the old but to experiment with the new. We are not protesting, we are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy, real estate portfolios and police “protection.” By way of concluding, then, our only real advice to you is to continue, keep going and do not stop. Occupy more, find each other, build larger and larger networks and keep discovering new ways to experiment with social life, consensus and democracy.
“We are all watching one another now and from Cairo we want to say we are in solidarity with you and we love you all for what you are doing.
New Briefs came from: David Bacon, Susannah Wood, James Green, James Van, Kristina Wong, Kirk Johnson, Thomas Francis, Niraj Warkoo, Yana Kunicho, Alexanra Topping, Shir Malik, and Portside Moderator. Photo 1: Belllingham WA; Photo 2: DC; Photo 3: DC; Photo 4: NYC march to DC; Photo 5: Oakland, CA; Photo 6: Oakland, CA; Photo 7:Vets at NY Stock Exchange; Photo 8: Denver; Photo 9: Tennessee; Photo 10: Portland, Oregon; Photo 11: Atlanta; Photo 12: Los Angeles, CA.